By Terrell Smith

Building a Team to Reach International Students

You may be asking the question, "Where do we begin?" Perhaps your group has no international student ministry at this time. "Where do we start? How do we get others to help?" you're asking. Here are some suggestions to help.

Starting from Scratch

Do you have a vision? Are you motivated? Consider how you became motivated. Then help others through the same process. Remember, God acted first; it's been His initiative to motivate people throughout history. And remember the power of prayer and of Scripture to motivate others.

Building an International Ministry Team - How?

Begin by praying for workers. Jesus reminds us the harvest is indeed plentiful, but there aren't enough workers. He gives us the responsibility to ask for the workers! (Matthew 9:37-38).

Share your vision with your whole group. Share your vision with others who will also pray for workers. Take every opportunity available to you to share your vision. Use Bible studies or talks, prayer meetings, Bible studies with individuals or small groups. Share your international friendship experiences, and ask internationals to share their testimonies with your group. Excitement about what God wants to do among internationals can be infectious. Be a "propagandist" (advocate) for God's international Kingdom!

As you pray and share your vision, look for the answers to your prayer! Invite those who seem interested to join you. Some possibilities for good team workers would be first year students (able to continue longer), students with experience in another country or culture, Christian international students (very helpful!), graduates and older students, someone who's working at the university or college as faculty, and families from your church.

Once you've found someone who shares your vision, begin meeting together regularly, even if there are only two of you. During this time together you'll want to pray for God to call others to the work and pray for contacts with international students. Then plan to be used by God in reaching internationals.

Nurturing the Team - Seven Elements

It's important to grow together as a team. This takes time - Jesus spent three years training the twelve disciples and involving them in an active way in His ministry.

1. Bible study

Bible study together gives vision for the work. It encourages our growth in Christ as His disciples, and increases our commitment to the work, helping us with our own priorities.

2. Prayer

We need to spend time in prayer as individuals - for ourselves, as well as for our international friends. Pray also as a team. Team prayer is a time to pray for each other, for the work, and for our international friends. Be faithful over the years in praying for them!

We also want to get our whole group involved in praying for internationals (group meetings, daily prayer meetings). The whole group can pray for new contacts, for specific countries, for international friends, and for your international outreach team.

Prayer in our churches, during worship, prayer meetings, and prayer requests given through church publications will help strengthen the work, and help others get involved in the ministry as well.

A Christian international student could share in the large group meeting or at church about his country, what Christians there are doing, and give specific requests for prayer.

It will take faithful prayer to overcome fear, prejudice, and to get others motivated to befriend internationals. It'll certainly take prayer for internationals to respond to the Gospel!

3. Sharing

We need to be open with one another in the team about our lives, needs, joys, frustrations, and experiences. Take time to share experiences of how your friendships with internationals are going. Learn to learn from one another and care for each other. It's important to grow in love together (John 13:35).

4. Planning

It's helpful if one person leads the team planning time, helping the team to stay on track and watching the time. Someone should keep notes of important things (prayer needs, plans, responsibilities).

Some questions to help the team in planning and evaluating:

  • What groups of internationals are we reaching? Whom are we missing? How can we include more internationals?
  • How are we helping Christian internationals? Non-Christian internationals?
  • How can we keep the large group, daily prayer meeting, and churches informed?
  • What could we do? What resources do we have?
  • What have we done? How does it need to be changed? What should stay the same?
  • What needs to be done now? When? Where? What materials are needed? Who will be responsible? For what?
  • Who can we ask to help?
  • What can be planned to win new workers?

5. Training

Team members and other group members need help in how to:

  • have a biblical base for international student work
  • build bridges to people of other faiths
  • visit language schools
  • be friendly in first contacts with internationals
  • build a real friendship with one or two internationals
  • visit internationals
  • help someone prepare for a language exam
  • be a language partner
  • help internationals in difficult situations
  • know what to say in conversation
  • overcome language difficulties
  • be culturally sensitive
  • share Christ in a way that's clear and understandable
  • lead evangelistic Bible studies with internationals
  • disciple new believers
  • prepare internationals to return home
  • do a welcome campaign
  • lead a city tour
  • do book tables for internationals
  • get ideas for international student events, weekends, outings, conferences, meetings
  • visit university officials
  • share a vision for the work with churches

6. Fun

Do you think Jesus had fun times with His disciples? Yes! Think of the weddings, long walks, and boat rides they had together. Our team members need time to get to know each other in relaxed, natural settings. This might be done through weekend or day retreats each semester, playing sports, taking walks, or eating meals together. As well as helping the team mature as a team, these are also important learning experiences which carry over in our contacts with internationals.

7. Task

This last element of team growth is the actual doing of the ministry together, the work the Lord has entrusted to us as His faithful servants. This, of course, is why we're a team!

Some suggestions to implement the above seven elements for team growth:

Weekly team meetings are important for Bible study, prayer, sharing, and planning. Other elements of team growth can be included through:

  • Team weekend retreat each semester
  • Visits from staff workers, missionaries or other experienced persons or specialists
  • Training conference or weekend
  • Handbooks, papers on international student work
  • Books on particular themes: "Islam," "How to share your faith," "Bible Study," "Discipleship," "Culture," etc.
  • Visits to other groups also involved in international student ministry
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